President Obama’s Inaugural Speech Analysis Essay

President Barack Obama made history by being America’s first African-American president. In January 2009, he took an oath of office as the 44 th president of The United States of America. On this icy day in Washington D. C, Barack Obama gave his inaugural speech after taking the oath of office. He did this while standing in front of a building that was built by black slaves during the period of slavery. By doing this Obama symbolized that as a global leader; he recognized and represented people from all races. His inauguration came at a time when the nation was undergoing hard economic times and the people were in low spirits, ready for a new leader who would bring change into their nation.

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President Obama’s thirty paragraphs inaugural speech was well written, fluently read and very artistic. The speech was free from any grammatical and pronunciation flaws and was read effortlessly in terms of swiftness and precision, indicating his proficiency in fluency. Having had a vast experience in writing during his college life, Obama demonstrated great proficiency in writing. His speech was characterized by numerous rhetorical strategies that mesmerized and persuaded his global audience.

For instance, the president effectively used pathos, a rhetorical device to appeal to the emotions of his global audience, and also signified his prowess of ineffective communication and writing skills. He started his speech by uttering the following words, “I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors ” (Obama par. 8). Here, President Obama effectively used a tricolon. This is a sentence composed of three well-defined parts which increase in size, magnitude and intensity (Harris 102). The words were spoken when America was experiencing hard economic times and thus, the tricolon brought a calming effect to his audience. It indicated that he connected very well to his audience who consisted of people from different races as well as different social and economic backgrounds. The tricolon was also meant to put emphasis on his passion for his nation. It also demonstrated his oratory skills as the words created a lyrical effect, a device in poetry. A similar poetic effect can also be seen in the following phrase which was part of his inaugural speech “ Because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatred shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace ” (Obama par. 10). Here, words such as “bitter swill of civil war” and “lines of tribe” created pictures in the imagination of his audience, thus building a better understanding of the magnitude of the situation at hand.

In another part of his speech, the president talked about calling his grandfather who was crying. By doing this, he was able to establish an emotional bond with his listeners.

His speech was also composed of short but precise sentences. Examples of such sentences, in his speech, include; “the enemy was advancing” and “the capital was abandoned” (Obama par.14). By writing short sentences, President Obama was able to hit the nail on the head, as his message was brief and was understood by many.

His speech was also characterized by references to all Americans. For instance, the pronouns “we,” “us,” and “our” were evident in most parts of his speech. In fact, Obama opened his inaugural address by using the word “us” to signify everyone. Such pronouns also made his speech friendlier, a factor that would strengthen his relationship with all the Americans, as they all felt recognized and appreciated. However, the pronoun “I” was minimal. This could indicate that the speech was mostly about the people he was elected to serve rather than himself as an individual.

He also discussed the topic of religion to this effect. This is seen in the following clause, “ That we are a nation of different believes, but we are all united in the prosperity of America, we are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace ” (Obama par. 13). This phrase was an indication that President Obama acknowledged all the religions that exist in the USA.

Besides incorporating the rhetoric of pathos, Obama’s speech was logically effective. He was able to use logos to appeal to his audience. By using facts and figures while delivering his message, Obama demonstrated that he was well aware of the history of his nation. He was also able to develop his ideas effectively. He laid out the appropriate strategies of the work that needed to be done in order to restore America’s economy. He referred to many historical instances to appreciate the past and show America’s position at that time. This can be illustrated in the following phrase; “ The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good ” (Obama par. 20).

The rhetoric of Ethos was also prominent in Obama’s speech. He demonstrated a lot of honesty in his speech and did not shy away from the unrelenting problems that affected The United States of America. He recognized and established the relationship that he had with people who were superior to him, giving credit while criticizing their flaws. For instance, he expressed gratitude to the former U.S. president Bush for serving the nation as well as his support through the transition period, pointing out the flaws that the nation experienced during his regime. He also made several references to slavery and segregation. At one point, Obama talked about his father who was a black man and mentioned a time in America’s history when a man like him would not be served in public restaurants. Through the use of ethos, Obama was able to make obvious his moral values, proving to his audience that he was indeed the right person for the job.

Another important aspect of Obama’s inaugural speech is the use of kairos. This involves moving the right argument at the right time or seizing the moment. In his speech, Obama was seen to take advantage of the significance of that moment to address the Americans’ main concerns. For instance, President Obama was aware of the critical moment that the Americans were living in. He recognized that Americans were undergoing economic recession, and they needed some assurance. They wanted to be guaranteed education reforms and suitable health care. Obama took this chance to address all these issues by saying these words; “ Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in short span of time. But know this America: They will be met ” (Obama par. 23) unquestionably, he was talking to the right audience, in the right place and at the most appropriate moment in time. Certainly, Obama made good use of the facts to influence his listeners, while they felt that he understood their concerns.

In conclusion, Obama was able to deliver an amazing speech during his inauguration. He made use of the rhetorical strategy to help him underline his vision and message to the American people and indeed to the world as a whole. Through the extensive use of the collective pronouns such as “us” and “we,” in his inaugural address, Obama successfully signified his commitment to the transition of America into a new era of hope where all counted (Danielle par. 5). The repeated use of these pronouns also left a lasting impression on his audience and fascinated them. Through the use of kairos, he was able to restore hope to his audience who were going through tough economic times, and was also able to gain their confidence. By using simple and brief sentences, he was clearly understood by the general audience/public. Obama was also able to capture the attention of his audience through the use of poetic words. Indisputably, president Barrack Obama was able to convince his audience that he was the right person to lead the country through the current crisis (CNN par.4). He was able to achieve this in the most stylistic, convincing and relaxed way. It is, therefore, no doubt that Obama was able to maintain his credibility in his arguments during his inauguration speech.

Works Cited

CNN. “Barack Obama Inaugration.” 2009. Web.

Naugton, Phillippe. “Inauguration speech: Barack Obama calls for return to “old truth.” 2009.

Obama, Barack Hussein. “Presidential Inaugral Address.”2009. Web.

Robert, Harris, A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices 2009.

“The Times and The Sunday Times.” 2011. Web.

Walker, Danielle. “Obama’s Inaugural Address Response.” 2009. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2022, September 14). President Obama’s Inaugural Speech Analysis.

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